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Projects of the Natural History Museums

In this section we would like to introduce you to our current projects. In addition to our exhibition activities, we are working in the background on the digitisation of our collections, the development of new conservation strategies and the use of the collections as research material.


The herbarium sheets of mosses, ferns and above all flowering plants from all over Europe and overseas were created by over 500 florists, especially in the 19th century. The oldest parts of the collection date back to the 17th century. The largely unexplored material contains important species records for various regions, especially in Thuringia. The aim of the project was to store the approximately 35,000 specimens in the museum's herbarium in a conservationally correct manner. This was urgently necessary in order to be able to guarantee shock- and pressure-free storage due to the partly fragile plant material. The initial securing and packing was possible thanks to project funding from the Thuringian State Chancellery. In a second step, the herbaria will be stored in graphic beds and digitised to make them accessible for research.

In many cases, our collections hold untapped research potential. We are working intensively on making the material more visible and digitally accessible. In the future, scientists will have easier access to the documents in the collections, especially to type material. A special role in this context is played by photographic recording and the entry of metadata in digiCULT, which will begin in 2021.


Project background

From 1709, the Electorate of Saxony employed so-called gemstone inspectors to search the territory for valuable gemstones. One of these inspectors was the geologist and mineralogist David Frenzel, who examined the Chemnitz area for gemstone deposits. During his work he also collected earths from various Saxon sites and sealed them. In the natural history collections, which emerged from the Princely Natural History Cabinet, almost 600 of these sealed earthenware compacts have been preserved. They show two crossed electoral swords in a floral border as well as the abbreviation »D.F.«, which indicates their creator. Comparable sealed earthenware can be found e.g. in Görlitz, Waldenburg, Dresden and Berlin. In geosciences, the term »earth« stands for very fine-grained, unconsolidated mineral mixtures. Minerals are naturally formed solids with a specific chemical composition whose atoms are arranged in a crystal structure. Today, 5456 different minerals are known. Mineral earths have been used since time immemorial to treat internal and external ailments and are also known as healing or miracle earths. In ancient times, »terra sigillata« was very popular, especially »terra lemnia« from the North Aegean island of Lemnos, which was produced under strict rituals and stamped with a goat symbol. In the 16th and 17th centuries, healing earths from other regions also gained in importance.

Cooperation with the TU Bergakademie Freiberg

As part of a bachelor's thesis at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, a mineralogical analysis of the sealing earths from the Rudolstadt collection was carried out and about half of the compacts were digitised. This revealed a mineral composition of at least five different minerals each, in some cases up to 15. This allows the conclusion that the seals were produced directly from the deposits, without preparation. In the future, it will be important to examine the remaining earths and to compare the find locations with the existing handwritten catalogue. If the sealed earths were once perhaps intended as an earth archive, they can now provide valuable insights, right up to biodiversity in the 18th century.

Further information on the sealing earths of the Natural History Museum as well as a documentation of the earths can be found in the Rudolstadt Natural History Paper No. 23.

The Natural History Museum, with its previous institution of the Princely Natural History Cabinet, has existed for over 260 years. The collections span this long period of time in a variety of ways and bring to life not only changes in the diversity and composition of species, but also the history of science. 

In the course of the renovation of the north wing of Heidecksburg Palace, the Natural History Museum is also to be given new space. A new concept is currently being developed. The aim is to use the entire castle wing, and not just the top floor as has been the case up to now, for the museum presentation of the largest collection of the Thuringian State Museum Heidecksburg. The aim is to enable visitors to stroll through past times on the various floors, rounded off by the further development of the museum into a modern natural history museum. The idea of the great interrelationships of nature, as postulated by Alexander von Humboldt, for example, is particularly central. This idea was also already present at the time of the creation of the local Natural History Cabinet, which is why its founder, Friedrich Karl of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, considered a broad arrangement of the collections, without leaving out any specific areas, to be particularly important and wrote this down.

Please support us in the realisation of this project; you are also welcome to write to us with your suggestions or wishes. We will keep you informed about the progress of the conception and implementation!